All in all, Tactica is a coherent package with great music, gameplay and characters. While it never reaches the heights of its mainline predecessors, it has its own place in the universe and I’m happy it exists. Joining the Phantom Thieves on another adventure always feels like reuniting with old friends.
Developer – Atlus, P Studio
Publisher – Sega
Platforms – Xbox Series X(reviewed), Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC, PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch
When Atlus first released Persona 5, it was met with critical acclaim and introduced a whole new generation to the fanbase. What was once a niche JRPG had finally found mainstream success in the west and set forth a bounty of spinoffs and collaborations. Now, Persona 5 Tactica takes on the tactical RPG genre for the first time. The Phantom Thieves return for another bout through the metaverse, except this time things are quite different.
The game kicks off on a seemingly normal day in the iconic Café Leblanc, but things turn awry when a mysterious symbol appears on the door. The Phantom Thieves investigate and are thrown into a mysterious version of the metaverse where things seem different than usual. I’ll avoid any story spoilers here but fans of Persona 5 will be well acquainted to how the story flows here, with a heavy emphasis on the crew standing up to oppression in the face of adversity. Newcomers to the franchise probably shouldn’t start here however, Tactica assumes you know these characters and takes place sometime after the formation of the Phantom Thieves. You’ll likely be lost if you don’t know why party members interact the way that they do. Lots of little references to the story of Persona 5 are also present, so it’s heavily advisable to start with the phenomenal JRPG first to get a feel for this world.
Since this is a tactical RPG, it may take some getting used to the new mechanics and style of gameplay. You take control of a 3 party member team, each with their own special moves and weapons. Movement
is restricted to a certain number of tiles per move, with each character having different range. Once you move, you have the option of attacking with the party member’s gun, or a physical attack, or you can opt to use their persona. Using a persona lets you use a variety of different moves, however, this will use up your SP gauge so it is to be used sparingly and strategically. You can also choose to not perform an attack which leads to you charging up for the next turn for a more powerful attack. Learning how to properly setup a party that has certain strengths is enjoyable and leads to some fun encounters. Each mission is complete with a new map layout, enemy formations, and sometimes a different style of play. For example, you may simply have to clear all enemies for one mission and in the next have to escort someone to the end goal. There is a decent amount of variety to keep it fresh throughout.
There are also some really cool signature moves that each character has which can be used after filling a voltage meter. This meter fills as you deal damage and deciding when and where to use these moves can be key to victory. The 1 More mechanic is also present, where dealing damage that an enemy is weak to lets you move once again, sometimes allowing you to chain together multiple moves in one turn for efficient damage and map movement. An all out attack move is also available when you move the three party members into a triangle, dealing damage to all enemies in that triangle space.
Tactica retains many of the things you’d expect to find in a Persona game including the signature style. Every menu screen is oozing with charm and style, something Atlus is known for at this point. The music also continues to keep Persona 5’s acid jazz style, with Lyn back for some new vocal tracks as well. A few of the background tracks aren’t as memorable as I’d expect them to be, but I’d still say there isn’t a single bad track in here. There’s even a new rendition of Beneath The Mask which I really enjoyed. The gameplay/music combo always seems to be set to the right mood based on the scenario and it really makes things more special. The art style here is more chibi similar to games like Persona Q, something that I think works well for the type of game it is.
The Persona fusing system is also present here in the Velvet Room. You can combine the personas you have acquired to make better and stronger personas to help you in battle. Each party member can also have a sub-persona equipped aside from their main one, something that is typically only possible for Joker. This allows you to make some different character builds that would otherwise be impossible.
Aside from the main story, there are side quests to tackle when you have some downtime in the hideout. These quests take the form of missions that have modifiers set to them. For example, it may have you complete the mission in less than 3 turns while using a certain party formation. These quests will reward you with skill points to be used to upgrade your party’s skills and abilities so it’s useful to complete them. Be warned, however, these challenges can be quite tough and require a lot of strategy and it’s likely you’ll have to attempt them a few times to get the right solution. Being limited in your moves really makes you think about what each step you take will accomplish and makes it all the more rewarding when you finally solve it.
As a big fan of the Phantom Thieves, it is always a delight to see more of them interacting. While Tactica doesn’t offer the social link status that mainline games do, there are still a whole bunch of interesting and humorous conversations between them. Some of the writing is a bit tired though, as I think we’ve all heard Morgana state that he’s not a cat too many times to count at this point. Still, it’s always a great time to hear their antics and all the voice talent returns to deliver yet another great performance.
In usual Persona spinoff fashion, we get some new characters added to the mix as well. Erina and Toshiro both make their debut and they are the true stars of this game. Erina is the leader of the rebel corp with a strong sense of fighting for what she believes in. Toshiro on the other hand is a stiff diet member who is a more level-headed adult than the rest of the group who acts as the voice of reason. The contrasting rebel/lawful nature of the group makes for an interesting dynamic that is enjoyable. Nothing groundbreaking in terms of story but it definitely has some really high moments and is certainly worth seeing through until the end if you can make it through the rather slow intro.
All in all, Tactica is a coherent package with great music, gameplay, and characters. While it never reaches the heights of its mainline predecessors, it has its own place in the universe and I’m happy it exists. Joining the Phantom Thieves on another adventure always feels like reuniting with old friends. I only wonder how much more can be squeezed out of the cast until the inevitable Persona 6 reveal.